My research interests fall at the intersection of political sociology, state-society interactions and Middle East area studies. Particularly, I focus on how mobilized Islam intersects with state authorities in Muslim majority countries. I started out researching this topic in Syria under Bashar, subsequently I began following a more comparative approach including Tunisia as case study and, in the future, Turkey will be added.
From Morocco to Indonesia mobilized Islam – either embodied by activated religious authorities, political Islamist parties, or societal da’wa movements – are at the center of societal and political conflicts. In a context where boundaries between formal politics, state institutions and societal cleavages have traditionally proved porous, religion plays a vital role in concurrently structuring conflicts, legitimizing policies and galvanizing social mobilization. In this context, increasingly, the question has been posed how activists balance a project of comprehensive Islamic reform with specialized activism in political, social and/or private sectors.
In my research I focus on particular contentious topics (for instance state control of mosques in Tunisia, attempts at creating Islamic governance in Northern-Syria and empowering religion in education in Turkey) to show how mobilized Islam is positioned at the intersection of formal politics, state institutions and society and how it subsequently shapes contemporary social and political conflicts. Through a combination of extensive fieldwork – consisting of more than two hundred semi structured interviews and an analysis of hundreds of primary and secondary sources – and quantitative methods – consisting of factor analyses such a Multiple Correspondence Analysis – I formulate propositions on the how and why of changing strategies of Islamic authorities, movements and parties in contentious mobilization. Thereby assess the current state of affairs of the “Islamist” project in Muslim majority countries.